Diet and Nutrition

Paul L. Reller L.Ac. / Last Updated: August 03, 2017

The Chinese were perhaps the first culture in history to adopt dietary recommendations as part of a public health program by government. Today, we largely ignore these public health concerns, even when it is bankrupting the government with enormous healthcare costs. Of course, diet and nutrition, from a medical perspective, is a huge subject. The most sensible way to approach health benefits from diet and nutritional medicine is to both study this science and consult with a knowledgeable physician whose medical schooling incorporated nutritional medicine in its curriculum, such as a Licensed Acupuncturist and herbalist (TCM physician) or Naturopathic physician.

Considering the enormity of the subject of nutritional medicine and dietary science, the article presented here is not meant to be a thorough guide for a complete dietary and nutritional approach. Instead, I am offering a number of small articles focused on a few key issues, and presenting just a small portion of the information available from a physician such as myself. The article will be ongoing and improved over time. The key to healthy changes in diet and nutrition, which may be the most important part of your healthcare, is first to avoid being overwhelmed by the enormity of the information available, and proceed step-by-step in a logical and open-minded manner. Don't let your beliefs or your appetites control your health. Instead, let your intelligence take over and learn what could make the biggest difference in your life, both for specific health problems, and for overall quality of life and healthier function and productivity. A healthy plant-based diet is easy to adopt for everyone, with enormous variety of foods involved, and is proven to be the most important thing that you can do for disease prevention and treatment of most chronic diseases, cancers, metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. Complementary and Integrative Medicine, and especially the advice and guidance from the TCM physician (CIM/TCM), or Licensed Acupuncturist and herbalist, as well as the Naturopathic Doctor, provides the needed help in adopting a pro-active, healthy and enjoyable healthcare practice that is the most important thing on can do in medical care.

An increasing awareness of the need for sound patient medical advice in nutritional medicine is occurring, yet standard medical school training in this area is stubbornly resisted. For decades public health experts have been noting the urgent need for patients to take a more proactive approach to their health with diet and nutrition. Many studies have demonstrated that this realm of health is perhaps the most important part of true preventive medicine, and could play an enormous role in the integrated treatment protocols for many common diseases. In response, we see from large studies of both U.S. and European University Medical Schools that a large percentage of these schools offers no instruction in nutritional science, and that only about a fourth of the medical schools even meets the meager minimum standards suggested by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, with the average instruction during many years of medical school training averaging only about 23 hours in total class time, and a broad survey of instructors stating that most of the pertinent nutritional information still has to be obtained outside of these classes, when they are even offered. You may see these large studies by going to the section of this article entitled Additional Information and Links to Scientific Studies. Nutritional science is an important part of the education in specialized medical schools devoted to Traditional Chinese Medicine, and of course, is the main course of study in Naturopathic medical schools. The general public and patients need to know that their medical doctors have an inadequate education in this important subject.

You may wonder if you are trying to improve your diet what exactly you should eat. Many healthy foods are unfamiliar and thus difficult to incorporate into your daily routine of cooking as well as being strange to your taste buds. Once you find a way to prepare these foods properly you will be glad that you did, but this process is a bit of work and most people will ultimately avoid it and stick with familiar tastes and habits. Unfortunately, this has led most of us down an unhealthy road, conditioned since childhood to favor foods rich in simple carbohydrates like processed sugar cane, beet sugar, high fructose corn sugar, white flour and potatoes, meats that are increasingly raised on these simple carbohydrates, and processed foods, with an abundance of food chemicals. We've been convinced by a food industry that our only protein is from meat, our only calcium is from dairy, vitamins are obtained from pills, and that foods labeled whole grain and natural are just that, when the truth is that most often there is just a little processed whole grain and 'natural' ingredients in these processed foods. Most of us convince ourselves that we are 'eating healthy' when in actuality this is becoming difficult, due to industry lies, propaganda, and a corporate food industry that has succeeded in reducing the essential nutrients in our crops by long term use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, farming practices that have severely depleted topsoil, hybridization, and now genetic engineering ('modification') and monocropping. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was created to provide minimal standards of safety in the industries of food production and pharmaceuticals, and even today, the great government of the United States, unlike even ancient Chinese governments, has very little actual input into public health and what we eat, by design. It is up to the consumers, it would seem, to become better educated and control this important issues of public health. What most of us don't realize is the actual power of the consumer.

Things are changing, but slowly. After 40 years of struggle, the small organic farmers and growers of livestock are finally seeing success in the United States. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that in 2012, organic food sales accounted for 4 percent of the total, rising 11 percent in one year. Unfortunately, this meager statistic was hailed as a triumph. Consumption of organic foods nearly tripled from 2002 to 2014, and is expected to continue its growth, but only 0.7 percent of U.S. cropland was planted in organic crops in 2011 (!!!), and there is very little actual support for the organic farmers, with much difficulty securing loans, purchasing land away from Big Agribusiness, or receiving government support in the forms of revised regulations or financial incentives! These small organic farmers could restore the healthy agricultural culture to the United States, preserving resources, providing healthy jobs, conserving water, and decreasing health spending, but they need actual support. Real family farms have almost disappeared in the United States, and they made up about a fifth of the workforce before 1950, while today our farm laborer averages just $19,000 per year in income (poverty level), works for big corporations, and makes up just over 2 percent of the workforce instead of 20 percent. Public choice and voice is needed to restore the growing of healthy food on healthy land by healthy families. As the demand for a healthier diet progresses, we can't ignore where it comes from, and we need to support a better income for these small organic farmers and farm laborers.

Fortunately, to the surprise of all, monetary incentive is starting to change farming habits by 2015. An article in the New York Times Science Times of March 10, 2015 noted that soil-conservation farming has nearly doubled in the last decade or so, and the "green manure" method of no-till farming with the planting of restorative crops, such as legumes, that replenish the soil and add nutrients as they are plowed into the soil just before planting the main crop, is increasing in the United States at the rate of 30 percent per year. The benefits include more nutritious topsoil and higher quality crops, less loss of topsoil with the addition of organic material, better water retention to increase yields during this period of climate change, and avoidance of the inevitable monetary charges for excessive nutrient and farm chemical runoff by the EPA as this problem mounts to a crisis situation. Farmers convinced for decades that they must adopt heavy use of expensive chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, and now expensive GMO seeds, are realizing that they were sold a bill of goods that eventually resulted in lowered yield and profits. They also are finally realizing that they must preserve the quality of the environment that they farm in, and take more pride in the quality of food they produce. The incentive to adopt big agricultural technology to increase profits has resulted in most family farmers going broke and being bought out by huge corporations, and the subsequent damage to food quality and public health has been enormous. Real farmers need to support sensible green farming methods and find out how they can make a good living and do the right thing for public health as well. Intelligent consumers need to support these real farmers. A 2013 report from the Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants, in Braunschweig, Germany stated that too simple of approaches with decreased tilling and crop rotation, though, were not effective enough to significantly reduce plant parasites and diseases, though, and that "sustainable management strategies require holistic approaches that consider entire production systems rather than focus on a single crop in its year of production." A return to a complete system supported by agricultural business, government, research institutions, and the public is needed to dramatically restore farmland and healthy food crops, and to dramatically reduce the need for harmful amounts of pesticides, insecticides and chemical fertilizers that is harming public health.

Worldwide, organic farming is growing at about the same clip as in the United States and the global land planted in organic farming is the same, a paltry one percent or less. China, naturally using organic farming methods not so long ago now has converted quickly to modern chemical farming methods to feed 22 percent of the world population with just 7 percent of the world's arable land. The rise in organic farming methods is happening quicker in China as concern for polluted food grows, but the cost of organic food when it is grown on such a small scale is often more than twice that of low cost food grown on an industrial scale. In China, 10-15 percent of the land is suitable for farming, compared to 20 percent of the land in the United States and 50 percent of the land in India, and in China 40 percent of this arable land needs to be irrigated to achieve agricultural production. Almost half of the population in China was still engaged in farming, forestry or fishing, though, in 2004, with about 35 percent still engaged in agriculture, and the potential to achieve a more labor-intensive organic farming with modern methods is obviously viable in many such countries. With China growing the food for 22 percent of the world population, and exporting much of it globally, the potential for a future with a sizable organic crop is there, but it needs to be encouraged by public demand. We must also realize that farm workers need to make a good living, which must raise food prices. Mechanized corporate farming with a poorly paid workforce produces cheaper food, but less healthy food.

We must now think globally with our food, because every year we all are eating more food grown in other countries. In China, the technological needs to balance world food demand, a healthy environment, and water presents big problems. About 65 percent of the food is grown on the Northern Plain, which includes Beijing, but the area lacks sufficient water, and the rivers have become polluted. Farming in the South of China produces only a small fraction of the total food, but this area is most heavily impacted by industrial pollution. Like the United States, farm chemicals pollute our rivers dramatically, and misuse of farm chemicals creates much disease and ill health, purposely ignored, and the situation is worse in countries like China that are not used to farm chemicals and do not have strong enforcement of regulations in place yet. A 2010 survey of food in China found about 5 percent of all food was polluted with unacceptable levels of toxic chemicals, and this has spurred increased interest in organic food for those that can afford it. The demand is now exceeding the supply, and the world organizations and governments must invest in promotion and help to grow organic farming. Much of the organically grown food in China now goes to government workers and officials, and Communist Party members, but at least they see the value in this healthier food. Many educated young people in China have also become interested in organic farming and a better world, and are investing their time and money in this endeavor. Improving respect, admiration and support globally for organic farmers will help achieve the goals of improved population health through healthy dietary habits.

As the emerging economy of China grows, the potential to change the world food production in a healthy manner is evident. One example of this positive struggle is the creation of new healthy hybrids from heirloom varieties of foods instead of monocropping with genetically modified crops (GMO). In the 1990s researchers at the Yunnan Normal University in China formed a project with the International Potato Center in Peru, where potatoes originated, and where some 4300 sub-species, or genetic varieties, of potatoes have been preserved, and were able to use extensive research from around the world to find parent species that could produce a healthy potato variety that was resistant to late blight and viruses that devastated the potato crops in Southern China. The result was the 'Cooperation-88' potato, combining parent genes from heirloom varieties in Peru and the Philippines, which is high yielding, resistant to disease (which kills 20-40 percent of the global food yearly), and is delicious. In a short time, China succeeded in planting 960,000 acres in this 'Cooperation-88' potato variety, now a staple of the Chinese potato chip industry, eaten around the world.

As the diversity in genetic variety decreases to alarming levels in global food production, climate change presents enormous damage to food production, and the human population continues to grow, we need to focus on healthy changes in global agriculture, not false promises from global corporations with GMO monocropping. The varieties of common foods have shrunk dramatically since the beginning of the 20th century, from 300 to 500 genetic varieties of such foods as potatoes, corn, cabbage, lettuce and tomatoes to just 10-20 genetic varieties today of each today, and this leaves our crops open to global disease threats. To counter this threat, a handful of wealthy individuals and institutions have accumulated seed banks to preserve the diversity of food crops on the planet, recognizing that this monocropping is leading to an enormous security threat. Each of us can help with this problem by simply purchasing more variety of foods, encouraging locally grown heirloom crops, and increasing our purchase of organically grown foods. Waiting, and depending on our government officials to deal with this threat is obviously not a good idea, as money speaks, and giant food and agriculture corporations have the money to influence our governments. There is no simple and single solution to this food diversity problem, and each consumer can become educated to these problems and make a variety of choices in their diet that will affect the health of our food supply in a variety of ways. We need not divide ourselves into binary camps of ideology, organic versus inorganic, vegetarians versus meat eaters, etc. but instead form a cooperative society that helps solve the problems of diet and nutrition in individualized ways.

The Enormous Costs of Unhealthy Public Dietary Habits

We have long been convinced in the United States that the choice of a healthy diet, rich in traditional foods grown locally and without chemicals, is the choice of a food fanatic or health nut, and that most people do just fine with fast foods, processed foods, and supermarket foods, which are the obvious choice of a modern person living in a fast-paced world, and cheaper. To show how wrong this assumption is, we only need to look at the evidence of what our modern diet has accomplished in some other cultures. First, we saw around 2004 that the Japanese island of Okinawa went from having the longest life expectancy and best overall health in Japan to one of the worst after the spread of American fast food from the huge U.S. military base on the island took hold, with an obesity crisis generated in just one generation of the population. The spread of fast food was dramatic, with nearly 9 hamburger joints per 100,000 citizens in 2004, and the young people of the island, famed for its rich Japanese cuisine, consistently stated in interviews that McDonald's was the most delicious food that they had ever eaten. How so many young people could come to this conclusion boils down to the array of food additives in this food that trick the brain into increased chemically-induced desire, not to the quality of food. This is obvious. A large study in 2012 by 6 major universities in New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany and Spain also found that a significantly increased risk of severe asthma, as well as severe rhinoconjunctivitis and severe eczema was highly associated with just 2-3 meals at fast food restaurants per week in children and adolescents (see study link in Additional Information to the article published in the British Medical Journal). Both an unhealthy public diet and unhealthy air quality are responsible for the current epidemic of asthma and allergy in the United States.

A similar story is told in an article in the June 9, 2013 New York Times exploring the sudden rise in Metabolic Syndrome and diabetes in Vietnam with the rising popularity of American fast food. The chief of endocrinology at Nguyen Tri Phuong Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Dr. Tran Quang Khanh, stated that the number of patients admitted daily with these metabolic disorders is now astounding. He credits most of the problem with the fast growth of fast food restaurants. Statistics in Vietnam show that in 1991, the rate of diabetes in the population of Vietnam was about 1 percent, and now it is nearly 10 percent in many areas of the country, and 6 percent overall. These numbers are expected to grow exponentially in coming years unless something is done. The American movie Super Size Me demonstrated that a perfectly healthy young man could induce diabetes, high blood pressure, and metabolic disease in just a month by eating McDonald's meals only for a month. The lessons of healthy diet and a healthy life learned by past generations of humans was not taken seriously, and we are paying a big price. Unfortunately, the force of advertising is proving to be much more effective than actual facts concerning healthy public diets and the benefits of real healthy food. The cost of fast and processed food, and the convenience, is a big consideration, but only when divorced from the enormous cost and inconvenience of the future health burdens engendered by these dietary and lifestyle habits.

The International Diabetes Federation estimated that 371 million people had a diagnosis of diabetes in 2012, with four out of five patients living in poor to middle-income countries, where the globalization of American fast food is progressing rapidly. In the U.S., in 2007, official statistics listed diabetes as a cause or contributor to death on 231,404 death certificates, according to the American Diabetes Association, and this is considered under-reported by most experts, as death from complications of diabetes are often listed under cardiovascular cause and kidney disease. In 2012, the New York City health department stated that the percentage of all deaths in the city related to diabetes has doubled in the last 2 decades, reaching 11 percent of all deaths! Internationally, experts now agree that more people are dying from a poor diet than from starvation now in the world. The irony is that the fast food in these countries is relatively expensive compared to the standard healthy diet, and advertising is driving this demand, as well as the array of glutamate chemicals designed to increase desire for the food and addiction. We only need to look at what is happening in the United States, with obesity and overweight conditions affecting nearly 60 percent of the population now, and Metabolic disease bankrupting us, as well as making our lives miserable. The modern American diet and corporate food production has become a public health threat, and a threat to our government, as the federal deficit is largely driven by rising healthcare costs and an aging population that wholeheartedly adopted fast food, processed snacks, easy to prepare meals, and a diet dominated by meat grown in increasingly unhealthy conditions and pumped full of chemicals. A new understanding is finally taking hold of the value of a healthy and natural diet, and it is never too late to change. In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) released an extensive report showing how processed meats, largely consumed as fast food, are a group one carcinogen, contributing to cancer in the same category as cigarette smoking. While this was downplayed in the media as an attack on bacon and sausage, and meat in general, this report, based on more than 800 of the most highly rated scientific studies and randomized controlled human clinical studies, clearly shows that the food industry has presented us with a very significant health threat that has been stubbornly ignored.

There is a strong persistence in the desire for fast food, much more than can be explained by just its convenience and cheapness, and a strong and stubborn belief that fast food poses no real health threat. This is not supported by evidence. In 2013, Dr. Richard D. Deshazo, an allergist-immunologist who received his training at the University of Alabama School of Medicine and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and who now is a professor at the University of Mississippi, participated in a study of fast food that was published in the American Journal of Medicine, and found, much to his surprise, that random samples of chicken nuggets from popular fast-food restaurants were more than 50 percent chicken byproducts, sugar, high calorific salt, and other adulterants. Laboratory analysis found that fatty tissues, cartilage, bowels, skin, blood vessels, nerves, and bone were highly processed into a product that resembled chicken meat. When asked in an interview to identify the sources of his samples, Dr. Deshazo stated: "I'm seriously not telling, because the food lobby is a very powerful lobby". This is a University Professor, not an elected government official, showing how elaborate this industry lobbying has become. Food industry groups did not deny this practice, stating only that restaurant chains advertise the nutritional contents of these fast foods online, or in-store, and are not concealing anything. Prior studies, and alarming videos leaked by meat factory workers, such as the videos released on You Tube detailing the mechanized processing of poultry and the creation of poultry paste, called "Pink Slime" on the videos, made from the parts of chickens normally discarded in the past, have also been addressed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), who proclaimed that this meat byproduct paste is 'perfectly safe' to consume. This is not really funny. If you asked young consumers whether they thought pink slime and sugary salty chicken intestines and other byproducts were desirable, they would emphatically say no, yet those same young consumers would tell you that they thought this same fast food was the most delicious food in their diet. This chemically tricking the mind to increase desire for the food is now proven to itself come with adverse health risks, as glutamate toxicity is now implicated in many neurological diseases.

Studies in 1997, at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (Paresh Chandra Dutta) found that hydrogenated oils used in fast food preparation, especially french fries, contained high levels of plant sterol oxidants, and these levels actually increased dramatically with repeated use of the frying oil. Oxidized sterols, both in plant oils processed with hydrogenation for frying, as well as meat cholesterols in processed meats that were not fresh, present a real problem for public health, and are directly tied to hormonal and metabolic health problems. French fries in large fast-food chains are actually fried twice in this oil, once in factory processing, and then again at the restaurant, often dipped in sugar or starch to create a golden color and crispy outer crust. As many as 5 steps of drying the potato mixture depletes both the nutritional contents and natural flavors, so artificial flavors have been developed to give the impression that the potato is real, and even that the taste of frying in beef fat is real. Unfortunately, the frying of these artificial chemicals produces unhealthy chemicals, such as acrylamide, sometimes creating 300 times the amount of acrylamide in an order of french fries than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deems safe for a glass of drinking water. Dale Hattis, a research professor at Clark University in Massachusetts, estimated that acrylamide directly causes several thousand cases of cancer per year in the United States, and a 2005 law suit by the state of California against food corporations selling frozen potato products and potato chips, as well as fast-food chains, resulted in an admission of harm and an out-of-court settlement and agreement to reduce acrylamide in their products. Despite such public knowledge and scientific study over decades, the rise in fast-food sales continues, now making up a substantial percentage of the public diet.

While it has been obviously easy to deny the problem of processed sugar consumption, with the average consumer presented with a vast array of sugary foods, often now called healthy alternatives, such as sugary green tea drinks, fruit drinks, and whole grain snacks whose sugars are disguised by high calorific salts and other additives, the problem with processed sugar consumption is only getting worse. A 2009 report from the Harvard School of Public Health stated that plentiful research has found that the average teenage boy in the United States now consumes nearly 3 cans of a sugary drink per day, and that the average can of soda contains about 10 teaspoons of processed sugar. How we can continue to believe that an average of 30 teaspoons of processed sugar per day added to the already sugary starchy diet that is now common for adolescents and teens is not a public health threat is remarkable. This diet, adopted purely due to advertising and chemical trickery that increases desire and addiction for these foods from an early age, is costing the country a fortune in future healthcare expenses. The Harvard School of Public Health has declared that these sugary drinks are directly tied to an 'epidemic' of obesity and insulin resistant metabolic syndrome.

An extensive effort led by the First Lady Michelle Obama has finally led to a significant decrease in new cases of Metabolic Syndrome, diabetes and obesity in children in the United States, but this is largely ignored or obfuscated. In January of 2012, the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, championed by the First Lady Michelle Obama, finally came into effect, creating new national standards for food at our schools, which were taken over by food corporations in the last decade. While still inadequate, this new law improves nutrition standards dramatically, with most schools now required to increase the availability of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and decrease the levels of trans-fats, saturated fats, and sodium in school lunches and breakfasts, and guidelines for meal planning now make it much more difficult to include unhealthy processed foods that have been fortified to meet minimum health standards. Of course, this 2012 school lunch law was heavily lobbied by the food industry to undermine healthy progress over profits, and numerous stories were circulated in the media purporting that the program was not working, and in fact decreasing participation. A study in 2016 showed that levels of calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, iron, fiber and protein were increased by this 2012 law, and that participation in school lunch programs had declined to only 46 percent from 47 percent of students, according to the lead researcher, Dr. Donna B. Johnson, professor at the University of Washington School of Public Health. The group Center for Science in the Public Interest showed that a decline in participation in school lunch programs began in 2007, coinciding with economic changes related to the Great Recession, and reflect income disparity more than attitudes toward the program. What we really need, though, is more of a public awareness and attitude to achieve healthy food in schools, and more effort by all involved in the school systems, from school boards to teachers to cooks. Most importantly, we need to see actual classroom education on nutrition and healthy food that children will respond to. Such education has worked well in parts of Europe, especially Italy, providing a renewed interest in healthy food for children that has made a huge impact on public health.

In 2014, a number of long-term studies, in both the United States and Europe, showed that dietary habits in the first year of life consistently lead to problematic patterns in diet and nutrition, obesity, Metabolic Syndrome, and other health problems later in life. In a September 2, 2014 article in the New York Times, Dr. Elsie M. Taveras, of MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A, stated that taste preferences and dietary habits that may lead to childhood disease appear to be firmly established in the first year of life. A high percentage of parents are now giving their children drinks with added sugar, many advertised as fruit juice drinks, as well as sugary snacks. These studies showed that children given any amount of sugar sweetened beverage in the first year of life were twice as likely to over-consume sugary drinks daily by age 6, and that infants aged 10-12 months who were given sugar sweetened drinks more than 3 times per week were twice as likely to be obese by age 6! Children who were not breast fed for their total nutrition in the first 4-6 months of life were documented to have a much higher risk for many diseases related to metabolism, and children who were fed infant formula instead of breast milk during the first 6 months of life were much more likely to adopt an unhealthy diet, craving sugar-sweetened beverages and avoiding foods that were not sweet, according to studies by the U.S. CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Dr. Taveras stated that there was a strong relation between exclusive breast feeding up to age 4-6 months and protection against childhood obesity.

These studies also showed that the diets consumed by the mothers during breast feeding had a profound effect on the dietary habits and which foods the child liked as they grew up. The studies also showed that infants generally preferred sweet foods to more bitter vegetables or acrid pungent fruits, but that if the parents ate these foods in front of them, and repeatedly gave the infant and child these foods, that the child then developed a taste and desire for these foods and readily ate them as they grew up, obtaining many essential nutrients associated with bitter and acrid tastes, such as sulphur (bitter) and aromatic carbon compounds (acrid or pungent). The Unites States Academy of Pediatrics reacted to these sound studies by recommending exclusive breast feeding for all infants until 6 months of age, avoiding any sugar-sweetened beverages for children in the first year of life, adopting specific dietary guidelines for all children that were different from the adult diet until at least 6 years of age, adopting specific dietary guidelines for children under age 2 years of age, and changing the whole family's diet when raising children to insure future health. These guidelines are now proven to be essential to decreasing the epidemic of childhood obesity and Metabolic Syndrome, and are shown to be very important in decreasing incidence of many diseases, especially allergic sinusitis, asthma and skin conditions, and future occurrence of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The failure of a high percentage of parents to follow these traditional nutritional guidelines for infants and toddlers, and the giving in to ideas that they should give the infant and child whatever food they want and not deny them processed foods and snacks has become a public health problem of enormous consequence to us all. The allowance of massive advertising to promote these problematic dietary habits, directed both to the children, and their parents, is also shown to be a public health threat.

In 2013, the University of Utah biology professor Dr. Wayne Potts, authored an NIH study published in the scientific journal Nature Communications that fed laboratory mice the equivalent amount of processed sugars that a fourth of the human population now consumes in the United States, or a normal diet with added soda and snacks, and female mortality doubled while male reproductive health was reduced by 25 percent, even when obvious signs of Metabolic Syndrome or diabetes were not seen.

The processed sugars, half fructose and half glucose, made up 25 percent of the daily calorie intake, despite being a relatively small amount of the food and drink consumed. Dr. Potts noted that prior studies fed laboratory animals much higher amounts of processed sugars and measured metabolic changes, and that this was the first study that he was aware of that used normal amounts of processed sugars and measured overall health outcomes. He stated that we should screen all foods and man-made substances for realistic toxicity to insure public health, not just medicinal drugs, where 73 percent that pass preclinical trials fail approval due to safety concerns. The modern diet is proven to cause enormous health problems that have been ignored by the public and denied by the food industry, who immediately attacked this study in the media. The University of Utah researchers noted that consumption of added processed sugars in the diet has increased 50 percent from the 1970s to 2008, primarily due to adding high fructose corn syrup to so many products. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that from 2005 to 2010, the American public got 13 percent of total calories from these added processed sugars, a slight reduction from the prior 5 years. The addition of processed sugars to processed fats and transfats, though, has also increased dramatically, adding a burden of advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) that increases this added sugar toxicity in the diet. It appears that the food industry is again ahead of the curve to counter improvements in nutrition and public health. Only public demand will change this scenario.

In an Advanced Society the tendency to eat more and decrease activity has contributed greatly to an epidemic of obesity

Numerous studies have clearly shown that the population in developing countries has decreased physical activity and exercise dramatically, but consumed the same amount of calories in food over the last 50 years. For example, a study published in 2014 by the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (HNANES) found that the number of women who reported no physical activity at all jumped from 19.1 percent in 1994 to 51.7 percent in 2010, and for men from 11.4 percent in 1994 to 43.5 percent in 2010. Research carried out at the University of California showed that in the last 20 years the calorie intake stayed roughly the same, but the BMI (body mass index) rose dramatically in the population. Rates of obesity and overweight condition, as well as Metabolic Syndrome, also rose dramatically. The math is clear. As we become a more technological and sedentary civilization we need to eat less. Unfortunately, the advice for the last 50 years has been to eat more, mainly spurred by the food industry and a strong lobby that alters the public health guidelines. Added to this is the types of caloric food eaten, with a growing percentage in the United States made up of unhealthy sugars and fats, and a decreasing percentage containing slow carbohydrates, healthy fats, and fiber. Of course the industry and the media immediately jumped on this study to proclaim that the question was of course a binary one, and this proves that the food industry is not the problem. Any intelligent individual can see that the problem of obesity, overweight condition, and Metabolic Syndrome is a multifactorial one, though, not a this or that oversimplified problem.

The solution to improved dietary and nutritional habits and health is to do anything and everything you can do to achieve the goal. This means that a holistic approach is necessary, and this holistic approach should be individualized to achieve personal goals. Eating less is an important consideration. Public health studies in the past have shown that individuals that go for at least 5 hours without eating during the day have a dramatically reduced risk of most of the common disease states that kill us. The idea that we have to eat lunch and snacks is simply not true. Many believe that if they don't snack that they will feel faint or dizzy. While the mantra of "I feel hypoglycemic' is often repeated, this is almost never the reason for feeling faint, tired or dizzy when the patient's circulating blood sugar is tested, but is often associated with the metabolic roller coaster of hormonal demands that our diets have created. Rather than complain about the lack of sugar or carbohydrate producing enough glucose, simply starting the day with slow carbohydrates and healthy fats and proteins will insure that your metabolism has a steady state of glucose energy. Eating a porridge of steel cut oats or other whole grain, with a little honey, maple or agave syrup, a little butter, and a few dried currants and freshly shelled walnuts insures that you have a slow and steady source of glucose that requires the minimal amount of metabolic work and regulation to achieve. With a breakfast that supplies a slow and steady source of nutritional energy, rather than a quick carb stress and roller coaster metabolic effect as the insulin and glucagon need shoots up and then drops out, and our leptin and adiponectin levels drop and peak, you will feel better, have more sustained energy, and actually be healthier. Eating less during the day will insure that calories are balanced with need, especially if you sit at a desk. Getting up periodically and taking a brisk walk or climbing stairs, rather than eating, will insure that enough physical activity is achieved to regulate the energy metabolism, and maintain cardiovascular and muscular health. This is a simple strategy.

Of course, any analysis of this public health equation should not just consider the caloric content of food as a simple statistic, but should take a more intelligent and nuanced look at quality of these calories. If the foods that provide caloric energy are causing physiological and metabolic stress, then the equation would be altered, and if these foods are causing health problems that also require energy to correct, this too would complicate the equation. Each individual may present with a different set of factors in the equation, and pretending that the simple standard measure of calories is all that we have to consider is crazy. We need to take an individualized look at the quality of these calories we consume. By decreasing caloric intake, improving the quality of the foods that supply these calories, and simply increasing daily activity and exercise, it is obvious that our health will improve dramatically. The rest of this article presents the information that you need to consider the choices in a healthy diet.